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Art Review: America after the Fall at the Royal Academy

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Upstairs at the Royal Academy, the pokey Sackler Wing bursts with a tremendous energy that encapsulates the despair, hope, fear and nostalgia that consumed 1930s America during a time of great uncertainty. This is an exhibition that, with its wild diversity, refuses to let you get comfortable.
Visitors are thrown into a loud and bustling expressionist-led New York with Paul Cadmus’ rowdy drunk sailors and Philip Evergood’s dance marathon contestants edging closer to a brutal collapse as they desperately yet barely carry on. Away from the crowds, Edward Hopper’s lone usherette in New York Movie is bored waiting for the picture to finish for yet another night.
Amidst the growing industry in the city, workers strive for empowerment. In Aaron Douglas’ Aspiration, the shackled arms of African American slaves wave underneath the defiant purple silhouettes of their descendents firmly grasping industrial tools and boldly pointing towards a towering city on a hill. Pat Whalen, an Irish-American …